Jim Harbaugh was 703 miles away from Michigan Stadium on Wednesday night. But the mania followed the Wolverines’ head coach to Missouri all the same.
Harbaugh was at Blue Springs South High School for one of his controversial “satellite camps,” which he has sold as development opportunities for high school football players but opponents view as a chance to nab recruits from talent-rich regions. The Michigan head coach has embarked on a schedule that includes more than two dozen stops throughout the country.
People swarmed Harbaugh for 20 minutes after he ended Wednesday’s camp — kids asking for autographs, fans asking for selfies and high school players asking for a handshake, hoping Harbaugh would remember their name. One young girl had even made Harbaugh a card from construction paper, reading “Go Blue.”
For the previous three hours, though, all the drama and social media craze subsided, as almost 400 local football players powered through 30-yard dashes, shuttles, one-on-one competitions and other drills in the heat.
While Harbaugh bills his camps as purely instructional, participants often see them as something else — a chance at Division-I recruiting attention.
“We’re all here for the same reason, and that’s to be exposed to these coaches,” said Cameron Hairston, a senior wide receiver at Lee’s Summit North. “You’ve got to push to the front of the line so you can get more reps and be seen. Stepping up from among so many kids is extremely competitive.”
Anthony Payne, asenior defensive lineman/linebacker at Raymore-Peculiar, says he has 16 FCS scholarship offers. But he wants to start receiving them from higher-level schools — like Michigan — and saw Wednesday as a chance to gain attention.
“This has been a great experience, especially with such a high-caliber coach,” Payne said. “I was impressed with just how crisp Coach Harbaugh was and how intense everything was out there, even just to get reps.”
As hundreds of athletes pushed to the fronts of their rep lines Wednesday, they showed Harbaugh the hunger for football he so often praises.
The satellite camp at Blue Springs South was one of the most well-attended Harbaugh has done this summer, he said. There were 305 players pre-registered, and about 75 joined as walk-ups.
That showing proves football is alive and well, according to the Michigan head coach.
“It’s been really inspiring,” Harbaugh said. “You hear so much about people’s perception of football, whether it’s through movies or media or President Obama. … Guys really have a passion to play the game, more so than they did 20 years ago, 10 years ago. That’s been inspiring.”